Excise minister bats for affordable liquor, retracts

Excise minister bats for affordable liquor, retracts

H Nagesh. File photo/SK Dinesh

Confusion prevailed over Excise Minister H Nagesh’s statement on Tuesday, after he told reporters that the government was mulling a proposal to provide good quality liquor at an affordable price to the poor.

However, hours later, the minister retracted his statement saying that no such proposal existed.

When reporters posed a question to Nagesh on the affordability of liquor, the minister said, “One cannot simply provide cheap liquor. There will have to be research involving distilleries, to come up with good quality-yet-affordable liquor.” On being asked whether the government had any plan to subsidise liquor, Nagesh said it will be examined ahead of the upcoming budget.

In an official statement he issued later, Nagesh said his remark was taken out of context and that there was no such proposal before the government. “How can the government even think on those lines? I did not mention any such proposal,” Nagesh told DH. That liquor should be made available at a low cost is a proposal pending since 2013, but “I have not taken it up with the government,” he said in the statement. 

It is not the first time that Nagesh has retracted his statement. In September, the minister had proposed mobile vans selling liquor, to counter bootlegging. However, after much backlash, especially from women’s groups, the minister retracted his statement.

During his press conference on Tuesday, the minister also clarified that the government had no intention of giving licences to new liquor shops, in spite of a demand for the same. This year, the excise department generated Rs 16,100 crore revenue against the target of Rs 20,950 crore. The department would be able to reach the target by the end of the financial year, Nagesh added.

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